8) THE RELATION OF THE MASTER AS THE SPIRITUAL TEACHER WITH HIS OWN TEACHERS
I reside in the hearts of all. From Me come memory and knowledge and also their loss.
It is I alone who am demonstrated by all the Vedas. I am the founder of the institutions for the handing down of the meaning of the Vedanta and am the knower of the Vedas.
– Gita. XV 15
1. The power of being a spiritual teacher is the especial possession of the incarnations of God
We have already1said that the indication of the power of being a spiritual teacher is found from childhood in those who are born to be such teachers. The case of the race of great souls known as the incarnations of God needs no mention. Any one of them who is born to establish a particular faith or doctrine in society is seen, as it were, established in that faith or doctrine from childhood. It is true that the development of their bodies, senses, etc., and the favourable conditions of time, place, etc., may gradually appear and help that doctrine to be fully developed in them, but it is not a fact that it is these causes that produce this doctrine in them in this life. It is as if it is born with them and they start their lives with this power. The cause of the birth of this power in their present life has not been traced in spite of a thousand efforts. It is found to be exactly so when one makes an inquiry regarding the birth of the power of spiritual teaching in the life of the Master also. One is surprised to discover the manifestation more or less of this power during his childhood, youth, the time of his Sadhana and all other periods of his life. And however much one may ponder over it, one can by no means ascertain how this power first originated in his life. We have no desire to increase the volume of our book by mentioning here the events of his childhood. But it will not be out of place here to make a present to the reader of the events that yet remain to be described concerning the Master’s youth and the time of his Sadhana, during which time various kinds of divine sports were manifested through him as the spiritual teacher with Mathur Babu.
2. The Master was initiated by several teachers
The Master tried on many occasions to explain to us, by adverting to the story of the world-renouncing Avadhuta spoken of in the Bhagavata, that though there should be one teacher only to initiate one in the Mantra of one’s chosen Ideal, there may be more than one subsidiary teacher or, in other words, instructor, teaching religious matters in general. It is written in the Bhagavata that, being taught particular spiritual matters by twenty-four subsidiary teachers, one after another, the said Avadhuta attained success. In the Master’s life too we do not find any lack of instructors for acquainting him with particular modes of spiritual practice for realizing particular truths. We have heard him on many occasions make a special mention of the names only of the Bhairavi Brahmani, the “naked” Tota Puri and the Muslim Govinda. The Master mentioned but rarely the names of other teachers, though he learnt from them the methods of spiritual practice according to other Hindu denominations. The only thing he mentioned was that he learnt from other teachers the processes of spiritual practice according to other sects and attained perfection in their discipline in three days only. He abstained from mentioning their names. But it is difficult to say now whether he forgot their names or they were not worth mentioning. But it is clear that he had contact with them for a very short time only. This is why they do not deserve special mention.
3. The Bhairavi Brahmani
The Bhairavi Brahmani, of all his subsidiary teachers, stayed with the Master the longest, but it is hard to tell how long. For, before we took refuge at the holy feet of the Master, she had left Dakshineswar for good. The Master afterwards met her at Kasi where she was practising austerities.
4. The Brahmani assisted the Master in Sadhana
We have heard from the Master that the Bhairavi Brahmani lived for a very long time at the Dakshineswar temple and other places like Devamandal-ghat on the bank of the Ganga in the neighbourhood. We are told that she made the Master practise one after another the disciplines recorded in the sixty-four principal Tantras. We were also told that the Brahmani was well versed in the Vaishnava scriptures also, and helped the Master in certain matters at the time when he practised Sakhibhava and other devotional moods. We are further told that, greatly honoured, she lived at Dakshineswar for about twelve years, even when his Sadhana period had long been over and her help had become unnecessary. She went with the Master and Hriday for sometime during that period even to Kamarpukur, and lived there among the Master’s relatives. From that time on, the Holy Mother respected her like her own mother-in-law and called her “mother”.
5. The Brahmani’s experience in the devotional moods recorded in the Vaishnava scriptures
The Brahmani followed the Sadhana according to the Vaishnavas and experienced a little of the bliss arising from the loving attitudes towards God such as Sakhya, Vatsalya, etc. Overwhelmed with Vatsalya towards the Masters, with butter in hand and with her clothes wet with tears, she used to cry out loudly “Gopala”, “Gopala”, while she was staying at Devamandalghat in Ariadaha; and simultaneously the Master’s mind at Dakshineswar felt a sudden yearning to see the Brahmani. We are told that he covered that distance of two miles at a run, went to her like a child running to its mother, sat down near her and ate that butter! Besides, in red Varanasi silk cloth and ornaments collected by her from somewhere, with various kinds of eatables and enjoyable things in her hand and singing songs she sometimes used to come with the ladies of the neighbourhood to the Master at Dakshineswar, feed him and then return. The Master said that she, with her dishevelled hair, and her agitated mood due to spiritual emotions, was taken to be none other than Yasoda herself, the queen of Nanda, grieving on account of the separation from Gopala.
6. Mathur was suspicious on seeing her beauty and accomplishments
The Brahmani possessed unusual beauty and accomplishments. We have heard from the Master that Mathur Babu had some doubts about her character, became suspicious when he saw her grace and beauty and heard of her unrestricted travelling everywhere alone, without a companion. One day, it is said, he went the length of speaking out in derision, “Where is your Bhairava, O Bhairavi?”1The Brahmani was then coming out of the temple of Kali after paying her obeisance to the Deity. Although suddenly questioned thus, she did not feel at all embarrassed or angry, but calmly looked at Mathur and afterwards pointed her finger at the great God lying as a dead body under the feet of the Mother and showed Him to Mathur. The suspicious worldly Mathur was also not a man to let the matter drop easily and said, “But that Bhairava does not move.” “Why”, repeated the Brahmani, in a calm, and serious voice “have I become a Bhairavi, if I cannot make the immovable move?” Ashamed and perplexed, Mathur stood speechless at the serious mood and answer of the Brahmani. Later on his mind became free from that vicious suspicion as he began to be acquainted daily with her noble nature and innumerable good qualities.
7. The Brahmani’s antecedents
We have known from the Master that the Brahmani was born somewhere in eastern Bengal and everyone who saw her was impressed with the idea that she was undoubtedly a lady of a very respectable family. She was indeed such. But we never heard from the Master as to whose house she had illumined as a daughter and in what village she was born; nor do we know whether she ever shed lustre on any one’s house as a wife or the reason why she felt detachment from the world and travelled from place to place as a Sannyasini in her advanced age. And none of us knows in the least where she acquired so much learning nor where or when she made so much progress in Sadhana.
8. The Brahmani, a spiritual aspirant of a high order
It needs no mention that the Brahmani was far advanced in Sadhana. This is very evident from the fact that she was selected by Providence to be a spiritual teacher of the Master. We heard from the Master himself that even before she came to him she could know by the power of Yoga that in her lifetime she would have to help three men, the Master and two others, in their Sadhana and that as soon as she saw them in different places at different times she recognized them and did help them. This leaves no doubt in our minds that she was an aspirant of a high order.
9. The Brahmani’s Yogic vision
She spoke of Chandra and Girija to the Master at her very first meeting with him. “My child,” she said, “I have already met both of them. And today I meet you whom I have been seeking all the time. I shall afterwards introduce them to you.” And as a matter of fact the Brahmani brought them afterwards to Dakshineswar and introduced them to him. We were told by the Master himself that they were both aspirants of a high order. But though they were far advanced on the path of Sadhana, their desire of realizing God remained unfulfilled. They attained some especial powers of working miracles and were going to lose their way in that wood.
10. The story of Chandra, a disciple of the Brahmani
The Master told us that Chandra was of a contemplative nature and a lover of God. He attained success in working a miracle with a Gutika or tiny ball; with the ball, sanctified by a Mantra on his person, he could be beyond the vision of ordinary eyes and could easily have ingress into and egress from even carefully protected, unapproachable places. But the weak human mind becomes egoistic if it acquires such miraculous powers before the realization of God. And it is needless to say that it is the increase of egoism that entangles man in the net of desires, prevents him from going forward towards higher ideals and at last becomes the cause of his fall. Ah, how many and various are the ways in which the Master explained to us over and over again: “It is the increase of egoism that leads to the increase of sin and its decrease conduces to the attainment of virtue. The increase of egoism is accompanied with the decrease of virtue and the destruction of egoism results in the realization of God. Selfishness is sin and selflessness is virtue. When the ‘I’ dies, all troubles are over”. “Ah!” continued he, “it is egoism only that is called in the scriptures, ‘the knot of spirit and matter’. Spirit or consciousness means the Self which is of the nature of pure knowledge and matter means the body, senses, etc. This egoism has tied these two together and has created in the human mind the firm delusion, ‘I am a Jiva possessed of the body, senses, etc.’ One cannot make any progress if one cannot cut this difficult knot asunder. It has to be given up. Again, Mother has shown me that miraculous powers are to be shunned like faeces. Attention should not be paid to them They sometimes come spontaneously to one when one applies oneself to spiritual practices; but one who pays attention to them has to stop short there and cannot go forward towards God.”
11. The attainment of the powers of miracles makes one fall from Yoga
With Swami Vivekananda, meditation was, as it were, his life. He kept at all times his mind meditating on God, even while he was eating, lying, sitting and doing other necessary physical acts. The Master used to say that he had “attained perfection in meditation”. While he was meditating one day, there suddenly came on him clairvoyance and clair-audience i.e., the power of seeing and hearing from a distance. As soon as he sat down to meditate and the meditation became just a little deep, his mind ascended to a plane from where he could see persons and hear their talks. No sooner had he seen anything like that than there arose a desire in his mind to go and see whether the vision was true or not. And he gave up his meditation immediately, went to those places and found that whatever he had seen during his meditation was entirely true. When he told the Master about it a few days after the occurrence, the latter said, “All these are obstacles on the path to the realization of God. Don’t meditate for a few days now.”
12. Chandra met with his fall on attaining the power of performing the miracle
Egoism grew in Chandra when he attained success in the Mantra. We were told by the Master that the attachment to lust and gold grew gradually in Chandra’s mind. He became enamoured of the daughter of a respectable well-to-do man and began to frequent his house by means of that miraculous power. Thus on account of the increase in his egoism and selfishness, Chandra lost the power and met with various kinds of humiliation.
13. The story of Girija, another disciple of the Brahmani
The Master told us also of the strange power of Girija. He said that he went one day with him for a walk to the garden of Sambhu Mallick in the neighbourhood of the Kali temple. Sambhu Mallick loved the Master very much and considered himself blessed if he could be of any service to him He fixed up a piece of land near the Kali temple at a rent of rupees two hundred and fifty and built on it a room for the Holy Mother to live in. In those days she used to live in that room when she came to have a bath in the Ganga and visit the Master. Once, while she was staying there, she had an attack of severe blood dysentery. Sambhu Babu then made all arrangements for her treatment, diet, etc. His wife was also a devotee, who worshipped the Master and the Holy Mother as God incarnate. She took the Holy Mother home on “auspicious”1Tuesdays and worshipped her as the divine Mother of the universe. Moreover, Sambhu Babu provided whatever was necessary for the Master, such as food and carriage hire for going to and from Calcutta. It was of course after the passing away of Mathur Babu that he got the privilege of serving the master that way. The Master described him as his second “supplier of provisions”, and in those days he used very often to go to his garden for a walk, spend a few hours in religious conversation with him and then return.
14. Girija’s power of performing a miracle
On one occasion he went with Girija for a walk to Sambhu Babu’s garden and a long time passed in conversation with him “Devotees”, said the Master, “possess a nature like that of hemp-smokers. A hemp-smoker first has a strong pull at the bowl, hands it over to another and then puffs out the smoke slowly. He does not enjoy the intoxication till he passes the bowl to another. Similarly when devotees come together, one devotee, absorbed in the divine mood, speaks on God and filled with bliss becomes silent; he then gives another devotee an opportunity to speak on Him and enjoys the bliss as a listener.” As Sambhu Babu, Girija and the Master came together that day none of them was conscious how time flew. It was gradually dusk, and the first quarter of the night passed away imperceptibly, when the Master realised that they had to return. He bade good night to Sambhu, and came to the road with Girija and began to proceed towards the Kali temple. But it was pitch dark. Unable to see anything of the road, he was slipping at every step and mistaking the direction. That it was dark did not occur to the Master and, being deeply absorbed in divine talks, he forgot to ask Sambhu for a lantern. What was he to do now? He caught hold of Girija’s hand and began somehow to feel his way. But he was experiencing great difficulty. Seeing him suffering thus, Girija said, “Wait a little, brother; I will show you light.” Saying so he turned about, stood and illumined the road with a long stream of effulgent light emanating from his back. The Master said, “The whole of the road up to the gate of the Kali temple was very clearly seen in that bright light and I had light all the way I came.”
15. Chandra’s and Girija’s powers of performing miracles were destroyed by the Master as the spiritual teacher
The Master then smiled and immediately added, “But those powers of theirs did not continue long. They disappeared when Chandra and Girija lived for some time in this (my) company.” Asked by us for the reason, the Master said, “Mother withdrew their powers into this (his own body) for their good. And when that happened, they gave up all those vain things and their minds went towards God.”
16. Miraculous powers are obstacles on the path to the realization of God. The parable of crossing a river on foot
Saying so, he continued, “What is there in these powers? Entangled in them the mind travels far away from Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. Listen to a story: A man had two sons. Dispassion came on the elder in his youth. He left home as a monk, while the younger got his education and became learned and virtuous. He then married and applied his mind to the performance of the duties of a householder. Now, there is a tradition among monks that if they like, they may go to see the place of their birth once after the expiry of twelve years. The said monk also, came thus to see his birthplace. While surveying the land, the cultivation, the wealth and other possessions, of his younger brother he came to his gate, stood and called him by name. On hearing the call, the younger brother came out and saw his elder brother. As he met him after a long time, the younger brother was beside himself with joy. He saluted him, brought him in and sitting by his side, began to serve him in various ways. The two brothers conversed on various topics after taking their meal. The younger brother then asked the elder, ‘Brother, you gave up all these worldly pleasures and wandered as a monk for so long a time. Please tell me what you have gained by it.’ As soon as the elder brother heard this, he said, ‘Will you see it? Then come with me.’ Saying so he came with his younger brother to the bank of the river in the neighbourhood, and said, ‘Just see’, and immediately he walked on foot on the waters of the river to the other bank and called out to him, ‘Have you seen it?’ The younger brother paid half a penny to the ferry man, crossed the river by boat, went up to his brother and said, ‘What have I seen?’ The elder brother said, ‘Why? Have you not seen my crossing of the river on foot?’ The younger brother then laughed and said, ‘Brother, have you not also seen that I have crossed the river by paying a halfpenny? But is this all you have got in return for putting up with so much suffering for twelve long years? You have got only what I accomplish so easily for just half- a penny.’ The elder brother was awakened by these words of the younger and applied his mind to the realization of God.”
17. The increase of egoism due to the Miraculous powers: The Master’s parable of an elephant, killed and brought Backto life
Thus, through stories, the Master explained to us in many ways that the attainment of such small powers, compared with things in the spiritual world, was very trifling, quite unavailing and to be avoided by all means. We cannot abstain from narrating here another similar story of the Master: “A Yogi attained the power of bringing about whatever he mentioned. Whatever he said to anybody came to pass immediately. Even if he said to any body ‘die’, he died immediately: if he said to him again ‘live’, he came to life at once. One day on a journey that Yogi met a devout holy man. The Yogi found that he was always repeating the name of God and meditating on Him He was told that the devotee had been practising such austerities there for many years. On seeing and after hearing all-these things the egoistic Yogi went up to that holy man and said condescendingly, ‘Well, you have indeed been repeating the name of God for so long a time; tell me if you have gained anything?’ The holy man replied humbly, ‘What do I expect to get? I have no desire of getting anything except realizing Him; and one cannot realize Him without His grace. That is why I have been lying down here and calling on Him that He may some day have compassion on me knowing that I am so humble and lowly. ‘ The Yogi retorted, ‘If you have not gained anything, then what is the utility of this useless effort? Direct your effort so as to get something!’ So advised, the devotee remained silent. But a little later he asked the Yogi, ‘Well sir, may I hear what you yourself have got?’ The Yogi said, ‘Well, do you want to hear? Just see.’ Saying so he said to an elephant tied under a tree close by, ‘Elephant, die.’ And the elephant dropped down dead at once. The Yogi said proudly, ‘Do you see? See again.’ With this he said to the dead elephant, ‘Elephant, live.’ And the elephant came Backto life at once, shook the dust of his body off and stood there as before. The Yogi now said triumphantly, ‘Well, have you now seen?’ The devotee had kept silent so long; but now he said, ‘Well what more have I observed than to see the elephant die and come Backto life again? But will you please tell me what you have gained thereby? Have you become free from repeated births and deaths by attaining that power? Have you got deliverance from old age and disease? Or have you realized the indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Itself?’ The Yogi then remained speechless and was awakened.”
Though Chandra1and Girija proceeded far on the path to the realization of God with the help of the Brahmani, they were far from being perfect. Having at once the inspiring contact with the Master and the power of performing those miracles, the latter, with its roots in egoism, was destroyed by the strength of the former. Thus they got an awakening and advanced with redoubled energy along the path leading to God-vision.
18. The Brahmani did not realize the unqualified non-dual state of consciousness; proof of it
We have convincing proof of the fact that, though the Bhairavi Brahmani herself had proceeded very far along the path of Sadhana, she had not had the full realization of the indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. The Master had attained perfection in the disciplines prescribed in the Tantras with the help of the Brahmani, when Tota Puri, who had realised the Nirvikalpa state of consciousness, the ultimate plane spoken of in the Vedanta, came for the first time, in the course of his travels, to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar. No sooner had Tota Puri seen the Master than he recognized him to be one of the fittest persons to enter the path of the Vedanta and taught him the sadhana leading to the Nirvikalpa Samadhi by initiating him in Sannyasa. The Brahmani then made great efforts to make him desist from proceeding along that path. “My child,” said she, “don’t visit him often; don’t mix much with him. His path is dry and austere. All your ardent affection and intense love for God will vanish if you mix with him.” It is evident from this that although the learned Brahmani was an extraordinary person in respect of devotion to the divine Lord, she never knew nor even dreamt that the unqualified state of Consciousness spoken of in the Vedanta, described and regarded by her as a dry and austere path, was the first step to the realization of the true, supreme devotion. She did not know that those persons alone who were pure, awakened and absolutely content in the Self could have selfless and ardent affection and intense love for God and that “the two, pure devotion and pure knowledge, are one and the same” as the Master used to say. Our inference is that the Brahmani did not understand it; and, because she would not understand it, the Master concealed from her as well as from his mother the fact that he practised Nirvikalpa Samadhi by shaving his head, putting on ochre-dyed cloth and being initiated by Swami Tota Puri into the mystery of Sannyasa. We are told that the old mother of the Master used to live then on the first floor of the music room in the north of the Dakshineswar temple grounds and that the Master confined himself within a room at the time of practising the Vedanta and kept himself out of sight from all persons for three days. It was the revered Puri alone who used to go to him from time to time. It is needless to say that the Master did not even give ear to the Brahmani’s words.
19. Definition of the “animal mode”, “hero mode”, and “divine mode” of the Tantras
So far as we have been told by the Master, it seems that the Brahmani was an expert in the heroic mode of worship of the Tantras. In the Tantras three modes of practice for the realization of God, namely, those of the animal, the hero and the divine are indicated. Those aspirants in whom the animal feelings of lust, anger, etc., prevail are aspirants of the animal mode of worship. They are enjoined to keep away from all objects of temptation, to keep a special eye on external purity and conduct, to engage themselves in the repetition of the Mother’s name, Purascharana and the like. The love of God prevails over the animal feelings such as lust, anger, etc., in aspirants following the hero mode. The attractions of lust and gold and objects of sight, taste, etc., intensify the love of God in them. They, therefore, should try to devote their whole mind to the divine Mother, living in the midst of the temptation of lust and gold and other things, and remaining steady under their action and reaction. They alone can become aspirants of the divine mode of worship in whom lust, anger, etc., have for ever been washed away by the strong current of the love of the divine Mother and the practice of the good qualities1of forgiveness, rectitude of conduct, kindness, contentment, truthfulness, etc., has become natural like inhaling and exhaling. These, in short, are the rough definitions of these three modes of worship. The best, mediocre and lowest aspirants spoken of in, the Vedanta are respectively those following the divine, heroic and animal modes described in the Tantras.
20. Brahmani the “heroic” aspirant, had not even qualified herself for the “divine mode” of worship
Although she was the foremost amongst the aspirants following the heroic mode, the Brahmani could not even develop the qualifications for following the divine mode. Having seen the living example of the Master and having got assistance from him, there arose in the Brahmani a strong desire for achieving the qualifications to follow the divine mode. The Brahmani saw, that as soon as he heard of Siddhi (hemp) or Karana2, let alone taking either, he became intoxicated with the feeling of his oneness with God, the cause of the universe, that as soon as he saw a woman whether chaste or unchaste he was reminded of the bliss-giving and nourishing powers of the Mother of the universe, which produced in his mind the attitude of the child of the divine Mother and that at the touch of gold and other metals his hands and other limbs got contracted even during deep sleep. Who is there who has not the fire of divine love kindled in his heart while he is in the company of such a blazing fire as the Master? Who is there who can live in such company without acquiring an aversion for the ephemeral worldly wealth, power, etc., and without knowing that God is more than our own, the eternal relation of ours? This is why, we are told, that the Brahmani spent the rest of her life in practising intense austerities.
21. The proof of it
We have also heard from the Master that the Brahmani felt jealous if he mixed much with anyone else or paid great respect to any other aspirant or devotee of God. We can clearly understand that attitude of hers towards the Master was like the painful jealousy and distress felt by the grandmother or some other old woman-relative of a fond child brought up by her when, he in later years, loves or takes care of some one else of the family. But it was not proper for an aspirant of so high an order as the Brahmani to have such a feeling in her heart, since she had had the opportunity of observing the Master day and night at all hours for so long a time in all actions, in all circumstances, and in all moods. She ought to have known that the love, respect, etc., of the Master were not momentary and fleeting like those of others. She ought to have known that the love and respect he reposed in her were reposed for ever and there was no ebb and flow in them But alas, O worldly love, and O mind of woman, you always want to bind the object of your love for ever and make him your possession! You do not like to give him the slightest liberty. You think that as soon as the object of your love gets a little liberty, he will not be yours and is sure to love some one else more than you. You do not understand that it is the weakness of your mind that prompts you to think so. You do not understand that the love that does not allow freedom to the object of love and cannot or does not learn to forget itself and feel happy in what the object of love wants, very often evaporates in a short time. So, if you have reposed your heart-felt love in anybody, know for certain that the object of your love will remain yours only, and that that pure love, free from the slightest tinge of selfishness will, in the end, bring for the object of your love, as well as for you, even the dir-ect vision of God and absolute freedom from all bondage.
22. The Brahmani became conscious of her spiritual want by the grace of the Master and went away to practise austerities
It is very surprising that although she was an aspirant of a high order, loving God intensely, the Brahmani did not understand this simple matter or was incapable of assimilating it, even if she had understood it. But there was indeed the lack of that conviction in her. Placed fortunately in the position of the spiritual teacher of Sri Ramakrishna she was developing slowly in her mind such ideas as, “I am superior to all; they should always obey me; otherwise they will meet with harm.” We are told that she did not even like the Master’s teaching the Holy Mother, which he used to do from time to time. We are also told that the Holy Mother used to be always hesitant and afraid of her and shrank within herself when she heard the Brahmani speak like that. The Brahmani, however, came to realize at last by the grace of the Master that weakness of her mind. She realized that if under the circumstances she kept away from him she would be able to conquer her growing weakness, and that though the attraction of hers towards the Master was like the tie of a golden chain she had to break it and go forward along her chosen path. We understand very well that this was why the Brahmani at last left Dakshineswar and the holy company of the Master, and knowing that “an itinerant Sadhu and flowing water never become polluted”,1she spent her time in travelling alone from one place of pilgrimage to another and practising austerities. It is needless to say that it was only through the Master’s mood of the spiritual teacher that the Brahmani got this awakening.
23. The story of the revered Tota Puri
Tota Puri was a tall and stalwart figure. He was able to make his mind still and devoid of any functions whatever in Nirvikalpa Samadhi, as a result of mental abstraction and meditation for forty long years, living unattached and by himself. He, nevertheless, spent much time daily in practising meditation and Samadhi. The Master referred to him as the “naked one”, as he used always to remain nude, like a boy. But he did so more probably because one should not always take the name of one’s spiritual teacher or call him by name. The Master said that the “naked one” never lived in a house and always worshipped fire inasmuch as he belonged to the denomination of the Nagas. The holy men of the Naga denomination look upon fire as very sacred and that is why they collect wood and keep a fire lighted near them wherever they live. This fire is usually called Dhuni. Naga holy men offer Arati to the Dhuni every morning and evening and also offer all food obtained as Bhiksha, to the fire in the form of the Dhuni and then eat that offered food. That is why at Dakshineswar, the “naked one” had his seat under the Panchavati where he resided and kept a Dhuni lighted near him His Dhuni burnt uniformly in rain or shine. It was near the Dhuni that the “naked one” took his food and rest. When, again, forgetting all worries and anxieties, the whole of the external world lay happily at the dead of night in the arms of the rest-giving sleep, like a child in its mother’s lap, the “naked one” would get up and make the Dhuni brighter. He would then sit down in his posture steady and firm like Mount Sumeru and merge his mind in Samadhi, restful like the motionless flame of a lamp in a windless place. In day-time also Sri Tota meditated most of the time; but he did it in a way that people could not know it. That is why he was very often seen to be lying at full length like a corpse with his body covered from head to foot with his wearing wrapper. The people thought he was sleeping.
24. The exchange of ideas between the Master and Tota Puri
The “naked one” kept near him a water-pot and a pair of long tongs only. He had a piece of skin to sit cross-legged on and always kept his body covered with a thick wrapper. He polished daily the water-pot and the tongs and kept them glittering. Seeing him practise meditation every day the Master one day asked him direct, “You have realized Brahman and become perfect; why do you then practise meditation daily?” At this he looked at the Master calmly and pointing with his finger to the water-pot, said, “Don’t you see how bright it looks? But what will happen if I don’t polish it daily? Will it not lose its lustre? Know that the mind also is like that. The mind also accumulates dirt if it be not polished daily by the practice of meditation.” Possessed of a keen insight, the Master accepted the opinion of his ‘naked’ teacher and said, “But if the water-pot be one of gold? It will then not surely become dirty even if it be not polished every day.” Tota smiled and assented, saying, “O yes, it is true indeed.” The Master remembered all his life the words of the “naked one” regarding the utility of the practice of daily meditation; he quoted him to us on many occasions. And it is our impression that the words of the Master viz., “a gold water-pot never becomes dirty”, were also imprinted for ever in Tota’s mind. He was convinced that the mind of the Master was indeed bright like a gold water-pot. It was from the very beginning that this kind of interchange of ideas between the teacher and the disciple used to take place.
25. The scriptures on the fearlessness and the freedom from bondage of the knowers of Brahman
It is stated in the Vedantic scriptures, that man becomes completely free from fear immediately on the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman, and that it is the only way to be absolutely free from fear. Truly so, for, how can a person who has known that he himself is the Self, the indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Itself, ever pure, ever awakened, all-pervading and devoid of old age and death – how can such a person have in his mind the fear of any thing or person? Where and how can a person have fear who in truth sees and always feels in his heart of hearts that except the One there is no second thing or person in the world? He feels himself to be the indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Itself, at all times and in all circumstances whether eating or drinking, sitting or lying, sleeping or waking. He always feels his eternal and all-pervading existence everywhere and in every being. He feels that he does not eat or drink, walk or rest, or sleep, and is always awake; that he has no want or abundance, no idleness or activity, no grief or joy, no birth or death, no past or future – in fact he has nothing whatever which a man sees, hears, thinks, or imagines with the help of the five senses, the mind and the intellect. It is this experience that the scriptures have described as the last stage in the progress of discrimination, “not this, not this”, and of it have they said that the infinite Self abides beyond it and is directly realized there. To have this Self-knowledge always and every moment of one’s life is what is known as being established in the state of identification with the absolute pure Consciousness; and as soon as one is so established there arises the experience of freedom from all bondage whatever. The Master said: “When a Jiva realizes this state of being, completely one with that Consciousness, his body continues for twenty-one days only, when it falls off like a dry leaf or in other words gets destroyed, and as he never again has this ‘I’ consciousness, he does not return to this world any more. Again, the persons “liberated in life”, continue to have, at intervals, this direct realization of the Self and experiences, for short periods, of being one with pure Consciousness, when at last it culminates in the full, final realization of establishment in this state, which is the one eternal vision of the Self. The eternally free Isvarakotis, who are born in the world only to do good to many people by establishing some particular truth, go on, have this experience, for short periods at intervals, of becoming one with that pure Consciousness from their childhood and, at last, when the work for which they are born is finished, merge completely and finally in that absolute Consciousness, becoming one with it. Again, those persons of extraordinary spiritual powers of whom the world has so far failed to ascertain whether they are human beings with exceptional powers or God Himself embodied and come down on earth to do good to humanity – those persons, the incarnations of God, can from their very childhood reach at will up to the perfect state of knowledge, stay there as long as they like and of their own accord come down again to do good to the people of this world, the meeting ground of birth and old age, grief and joy and the like.
26. The high state of Tota Puri
The revered Tota Puri attained the state of being “liberated in life” mentioned above as a result of austere spiritual practices of forty years, and this was why no action of his like eating, resting, sleeping, wandering, etc., was like that of the common run of human beings. Like the eternally free wind without any restraint, he used to roam about freely from place to place. Like the wind, again, he was untouched by the good or evil of the world, and like the very wind he could not remain confined in any place; for, we have heard from the Master that Tota would not stay more than three days in one place. On account of the Master’s wonderful attraction, however, Tota lived continuously for eleven months at Dakshineswar. Ah, what a charming power the Master had!
27. The fearlessness of Tota Puri; he saw the Bhairava
The Master said many things to us about Tota’s fearlessness. Amongst them there was a strange event concerning a spirit. On one occasion at the dead of night Tota made the Dhuni bright and was ready to sit for meditation. The world was calm, without the slightest noise. No sound reached the ear except the chirping of crickets and sometimes the deep hooting of the owls living in the holes of the pinnacles of the temples. There was also no stir in the wind. The branches of the trees of the Panchavati suddenly shook and a tall human form came down from the tree to the ground and looking steadfastly at Tota came with slow steps to the place of the Dhuni and sat down there. Surprised to see that personage, naked like himself, Tota asked who he was. The person replied, “I am Bhairava (a demigod). I reside here upon the tree for the purpose of protecting this holy place.” Tota was not at all afraid and said, “Very well, you and I are the same being, you are one manifestation of Brahman, and I am another. Come, sit down and meditate.” The person laughed out and vanished, as it were, into the air. The “naked one” also was not at all perturbed by this event and applied his mind to meditation. The next morning Tota related the incident to the Master. The Master replied, “Yes, it is true, he lives here. I have also met him many times. He sometimes predicted certain future events to me. At one time the Company (Government of India) tried to acquire the whole plot of the Panchavati for the purpose of building a powder magazine. Hearing of the proposal I was much worried lest I should lose the opportunity of sitting and calling on Mother in this place away from the noise and turmoil of the world. Mathur instituted a big case against the Company on behalf of Rani Rasmani so that they might not acquire the piece of land. At that time, one day I saw the Bhairava sitting on the tree. He said to me, by a sign, that the Company would not be able to acquire the land; they would be defeated in the case. It actually came to pass.”
28. The story of Tota Puri’s teacher
We have not heard anything from the Master about the exact place of Sri Tota’s birth in the northwest part of the country. The Master also perhaps did not think it necessary to ask him about it. Especially, when questioned about their stage previous to Sannyasa, their names, birthplaces, etc., monks do not mention them. They say, “To put these questions to monks and for monks to answer them are both forbidden by the scriptures.” This is why, perhaps, the Master never asked the “naked one” that question. But, while travelling in the northwestern part of India after the Master had passed away, the Master’s Sannyasin-disciples of the monastery at Belur, asked old Paramahamsas and came to know that the said Puri was born at some place in or near the Punjab. The monastery of his spiritual teacher was at Ludhiana, a place near Kurukshetra. His teacher also was a famous Yogi and a monastery was established there. It is not clearly known whether that monastery was founded by him or any one of his predecessors. But the old monks told the disciples of the Master that Tota Puri’s teacher was the Mohanta, the head of that monastery and that even then there used to be held an annual fair there, where the people of neighbouring villages assembled in his honour. As he used to smoke tobacco, the villagers even now bring tobacco during the fair and make a present of it to his “community”. It was Tota Puri who was installed Mohanta of that Math after the passing away of his teacher.
29. What Tota Puri said about his teacher’s monastery and community
It seems from the words of Tota Puri himself that he was taught the Vedanta even in his boyhood by his own teacher, the head of the community of monks. He lived with him for a long time and became acquainted with the mystery of the study of the Vedas and spiritual practices. He told the Master that there lived in their community seven hundred monks and they daily practised, according to their teacher’s instruction, meditation and other spiritual exercises in order to realize in their lives the truths that are hidden in the Vedanta. Tota Puri gave the Master some indication of the very good method of teaching meditation and other spiritual exercises in that community. The Master told us this story on many occasions for our instruction. He said, “The ‘naked one’ used to say that there were seven hundred naked spiritual aspirants in their community. Those who were beginning to learn meditation were asked to do so on cushions; for, they might feel an ache in their legs if they were to sit and meditate on hard seats and their unaccustomed minds might come to think of their bodies instead of God. Then afterwards, the deeper their meditation became the harder were the seats on which they had to sit. And at last they had to sit on a piece of skin only or on the bare ground to practise meditation. They were also made to observe strict rules regarding everything, viz., eating, drinking, etc. As regards their dress, the disciples were also made to practise gradually how to remain naked. As man is bound by the eight fetters of shame, hatred, fear, egoism regarding one’s birth, lineage, custom, pretentiousness and so on, they were taught to give them up one by one. Afterwards when they developed deep concentration of mind they had to go and travel from one place of pilgrimage to another, at first with other monks and later alone and then return. The naked monks had such rules.” The Master was told by Sri Puri of the practice of electing their President (Mohanta). The Master said to us one day in the course of conversation: “That one only who was found amongst the naked monks to have attained the true state of Paramahamsa was elected by all to the seat of the Mohanta of the community when it fell vacant. How could, otherwise, the elected person remain true to his vows when he would have in his possession money, respect and power? He would then surely have his head turned. This is why they placed that person alone on the Mohanta’s seat from whose mind the attraction for gold was found to have really vanished and gave him the charge of money and other valuable property. For, it was such a person alone that could rightly spend that wealth in the service of God and holy men.”
30. The antecedents of Tota Puri
From these words it becomes very clear that Tota Puri was from his childhood brought up under the affectionate care of his teacher as if in a heavenly realm, far from worldly attachment, delusion, jealousy, hatred and the like. There is a custom in the north-western parts of this country that a couple who do not have a child at the proper time promise at a holy place that they will make a Sannyasin of the child, the first fruit of their love, and offer it to the service of God, and they actually carry out that promise in action also. Was the revered Puri offered to his teacher that way? It is inferred to be so, as he never mentioned anything about his parents, brothers, sisters and others of his pre-monastic life.
31. Tota Puri’s mind
As a result of the impressions arising out of virtuous actions done in the past, the mind of the saint had simple, sincere faith, The Acharya Sankara has written in the very beginning of his Viveka-chudamani1 that the attainment of all the three things together, namely, a human birth, a yearning for the realization of God and the refuge in a teacher, a knower of Brahman, is very rare in the world. It is not possible to attain them without the grace of the divine Lord. Not only did the saintly Puri fortunately get all those three together, but he had the opportunity of using them as they should be used, and achieved liberation, the ultimate aim of human life. His mind assimilated his teacher’s instruction and used always to carry it out in practice exactly according to his teaching. He does not seem to have suffered much from the deception and hypocrisy of the mind. There is a saying amongst the Vaishnavas, “The three, namely, the spiritual teacher, the chosen Ideal and the devotees are kind indeed; but not having the kindness of one, man has been sent to rack and ruin.” Here “one” means one’s own mind. As the mind is not kind, man is ruined. We do not think that the saint Puri had to suffer at the hands of such a “rascal” mind. His simple mind reposed its trust in God sincerely and was going forward slowly along the path pointed out by his teacher to be trod by him. While it was going forward it never cast behind a single covetous glance, prompted by an ungratified wish, towards the sins and temptations of the world. That was why the saint came to the conviction that his individual effort, perseverance, self-reliance and self-confidence were all in all. Ah, the saint did not know that when the mind became self-willed or refractory, its effort was washed away like a bundle of straw before a strong current of water. He did not know that in the place of that self-reliance and self-confidence there came a terrible diffidence regarding one’s own power that made one weaker than a worm Looking at his own life he never thought, even in a dream, that if by the grace of God thousands of things of the external world were not favourable, all the efforts on the part of mortal man, produced the contrary results, instead of the expected ones and brought him bondage upon bondage. And why should he not think so? All his life he was able to do whatever he undertook. He was able at all times to carry into practice in his own life whatever he thought to be good for man. Therefore, it is doubtful if the saint could even imagine that man could ever be in the state where his “intellect understands but the heart does not yield”, that he incessantly felt within his heart the stings of a hundred scorpions for failing to make “his words correspond to his thought”, that there might be a thousand agents within the mind, each wanting to carry out its own whims, that every one of the senses might be independent and disobedient and that they might lead him on to the dark and terrible suffering of despondency. Or even if he knew it, still there was a great difference between “learning by hearing, learning by seeing, and learning by actual bitter experience”. Therefore, there was a world of difference between the picture of such states of man in the mind of the saint and that in the mind of a person who was really suffering thus incessantly. That is why the saint Puri was quite ignorant of the influence of the beginningless Avidya-Maya, the power of Brahman – the Maya that was difficult to get rid of. For this reason, it is doubtful whether instead of looking upon the conduct and actions of weak men with an eye of hard-hearted aversion, he was ever able to look on them with compassion. It is only on coming in contact with the divine state of the Master as the spiritual teacher that this want of his was removed. And at last he was compelled to accept the power of Maya and the identity of Brahman and Brahma-Sakti; and bowing his head with devotion, he bade good-bye to the Dakshineswar Kali temple. We shall now begin to describe this subject.
32. Tota Puri’s ignorance of the path of devotion
An austere man of renunciation, observing continence from his childhood, Tota had indeed the impression as already remarked by the Brahmani, that the path of devotion to God was a fantastic one. He did not realize that love and devotion could teach man gradually to renounce everything, including his own happiness, for the sake of his beloved, and lead him on ultimately to the realization of God; that in the ultimate development of his devotion, a true devotee and Sadhaka acquired the capacity of attaining the knowledge of perfect non-duality, and that Japa, singing of God, devotional exercises, etc., auxiliary to his Sadhana, were not, therefore, something to be scoffed at. It is for this reason that the saint did not sometimes refrain from ridiculing the devotional acts performed under the influence of great spiritual fervour. The reader, however, must not understand from this that the revered Puri was a sort of an atheist or that he had no love for God. Possessed of the control of the internal and external senses and other virtues auxiliary to his Sadhana, the revered saint himself had a calm nature and his devotion to God belonged to the Santa or calm mood. He could understand in others only that kind of devotion to God. But it never entered the mind of Sri Puri that one could go equally quickly forward towards God by loving, with the help of imagination, the great God, the Maker of the universe, as one’s own friend, son, wife, or husband. The devotee’s importunate appeals to God under the influence of his loving mood, his feeling of separation, his great yearning, his pique and egoism, all centering on God and the physical movements like laughing, weeping, etc., under the influence of unrestrained divine sentiments – all these Sri Puri could not but regard as the incoherent talks or whims and antics of mad people. Nor could he ever imagine that an aspirant of this nature might quickly attain the desired result with the help of these spiritual loving moods. Therefore, there used to take place on many occasions a loving conflict between the Master and Tota Puri regarding heart-felt devotion to the Mother of the universe, the Power of Brahman and unrestrained emotionalism on the part of devotees.
33. Proof thereof: What, are you fashioning Chapatis by clapping your hands?
It was a habit with the Master from his childhood to clap his hands morning and evening for a short time and sometimes to dance under the influence of devotional moods as he went on chanting loudly the Lord’s name like, “Call on Hari, call on Hari. Hari is the Teacher, the Teacher is Hari. Ah! Govinda, my vital force, my life! The mind is Krishna, the vital force is Krishna, knowledge is Krishna, meditation is Krishna, consciousness is Krishna, the intellect is Krishna, Thou art the universe, the universe is in Thee, I am a machine, Thou art the mechanic”, and so on and so forth. He used to do so daily even after the attainment of Nirvikalpa Samadhi on the acquisition of the Vedantic knowledge of non-duality. One afternoon, sitting near Sri Puri, he was engaged in conversation with him till it was dusk. Seeing it was dusk, the Master stopped all conversation and was thus remembering and thinking of the divine Lord while he was clapping his hands. Seeing him do so, Tota Puri became surprised and thought, why should a man whose exceptional fitness for Vedantic discipline brought him Nirvikalpa Samadhi in such a short time practise these things like one of the lowest fitness? And he sarcastically said, “What, fashioning Chapatis by clapping your hands!” He meant to ask why he was acting like the people of the north-western parts of the country, who, without taking the help of a rolling-pin, fashion Chapatis with a quantity of dough in their hands – by patting it with their palms producing a clapping sound. In response, the Master laughed and said, “What foolishness! I am taking the names of God and you say I am fashioning Chapatis!” At this straight and simple answer of the Master without any sting, the Puri also laughed and realized that such an act of the Master was not meaningless, though its hidden meaning was not clear to him. It was better not to pass a remark on what he did not understand.
34. What led to Tota’s giving up anger
On another occasion the Master was sitting after dusk near the Puri’s Dhuni. In the course of conversation about God the minds of both the Master and the saint ascended to a very high plane and were about to merge in the non-dual knowledge. And the Self in the Dhuni near them was, as it were, blazing, throbbingly feeling Its oneness with the Self in them and smiling blissfully by manifesting a thousand tongues! Just at that time a servant of the garden wanted to have a smoke and, preparing tobacco in his bowl, came up there for some charcoal fire and started taking it by putting a piece of burning wood from the Dhuni into his bowl. Merged in conversation with the Master and enjoying the bliss of the non-dual Brahman within, the saint had not so long been aware of his coming and taking charcoal fire from the Dhuni. Now all of a sudden he noticed that and, extremely annoyed and angry, began to call him names and shook the pair of tongs at him threateningly. For, we have already said that the holy men of the Naga denominations worship and show great respect to fire in the form of Dhuni.
Raising a roar of laughter in the state of partial normal consciousness, the Master exclaimed at this behaviour of the Puri, “Ah, wretchedness! Ah, forgetfulness!” He said it over and over again, laughed and rolled on the ground. Tota was surprised to see that mood of the Master and said, “Why are you doing like that? Don’t you see how wrong it was on the part of the man?” The Master laughed and said, “Yes that is true; but I see at the same time the depth of your knowledge of Brahman! Just now you were saying ‘there is nothing except Brahman and all things and persons in the universe are merely Its manifestations’. But forgetting everything the very next moment you are ready to beat a man! This is why I laugh to think of the omnipotence of Maya.” Hearing this, Tota became serious and silent for a short time and then said, “You are quite right. Under the influence of anger I forgot everything indeed. Anger is surely a very nasty thing. I give it up this very moment.” As a matter of fact, since that day the Swami was never seen to be angry again.
35. Man cannot realize God till Maya moves away compassionately from his path
The Master used to say, ” ‘Caught in the net of the five elements Brahman weeps.’ You may shut your eyes and try to persuade yourself that there is no thorn and no prick, but as soon as the hand touches the thorn it pricks and you cry out in pain. Similarly, you may do your best to persuade your mind that you have no birth or death, no vice or virtue, no pain or pleasure, no hunger or thirst, that you are the immutable Self, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Itself; but as soon as your body falls a prey to some disease or your mind is attracted by the pleasure of the passing moments, arising from lust or gold, tempted by the objects of enjoyments such as sights, tastes, etc., you happen suddenly to do something wrong. Delusion, anguish, pain and the like crop up and harass you very much, making you forget all your discrimination and carefully-drawn conclusions. Therefore, know it for certain, my child, that no one can have Self-knowledge and be freed from the misery of the world till the grace of God descends on him and Maya opens the door to liberation and moves away. Have you not heard the Chandi1say, ‘When She becomes gracious, She confers boons which cause people’s liberation.’
Nothing is possible if Mother does not bestow Her grace and move away from the path.”
36. An example thereof. The story of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana travelling in the forest
“Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were going through the forest. The path in the forest was narrow – not even two could go abreast. Rama walked in front with bow in hand; Sita followed; and Lakshmana came after her with bow and arrows. Lakshmana had so much devotion to, and love for Rama that he had a desire in his mind always to see his form, blue in complexion, like a newly formed cloud. But as Sita was between them, he could not see Rama as they were walking, and so became, anxious to see him. The intelligent Sita understood it and, sympathizing with Lakshmana in his sorrow, moved a little to one side, stood and said to him, “There – see.” It was then that Lakshmana saw to his heart’s content the form of Rama, his chosen Ideal. Similarly, Maya, represented by Sita, stands between the Jiva and Isvara. Know it for certain that the Jiva who is represented by Lakshmana cannot see God till, feeling sympathy with him, she moves to one side. The moment she bestows her grace, the Jiva is blessed with a vision of Narayana, represented by Rama in the example and he is relieved from all the trials and tribulations of the world. Otherwise, however much you may discriminate and draw logical conclusions, it would be of no avail. It is said that one grain of ptychotis digests one hundred grains of rice; but when there is a disorder in the stomach even one hundred grains of ptychotis cannot digest a single grain of rice. This is a good analogy.”
37. Tota did not know that his high state was due to the grace of the divine Mother
Swami Tota Puri was a recipient of the grace of the Mother of the universe from his birth. He was in possession, from his childhood, of good impressions, a sincere mind, the company of a great Yogi and a firm and strong body. Maya, the power of the Lord, did not show him her dreadful and alldevouring form, horrible as the shadow of death, and never made him fall into the snares of Her bewitching forms of spiritual ignorance. Therefore, it became an easy affair for him to go forward with the help of his individual effort and perseverance, attain Nirvikalpa Samadhi, realize God, and acquire Self-knowledge. How could he understand that the divine Mother Herself had removed all obstacles and impediments with Her own hands from the path of his progress and Herself moved away from it? Now, after so long a time, the Mother was pleased to explain it to Swami Puri. He now got the opportunity of detecting that mistake of his mind.
38. Tota Puri’s illness
The revered Puri had the robust physique found in the north-western parts of India. He never knew what illness, indigestion and a hundred other kinds of bodily indispositions were. Whatever he ate he digested. He was never in want of deep sleep wherever he was. And mental bliss and peace arising from the knowledge and direct realization of God flowed in his mind in incessant streams in a hundred channels. Attracted by the love and respect of the Master, he had stayed with him for a few months, but the water of Bengal, and its hot, heavy air full of humidity told upon his health and his firm body fell an easy prey to illness. He had a severe attack of blood dysentery. On account of the painful wringing of the intestines, day and night, his mind, although calm and tranquil and accustomed to Samadhi, moved away from its existence-in-Brahman to come down to the body. “Brahman had been caught in the net of the five elements”; what was the way out now except the grace of the divine Mother, the ruler over all!
39. Tota disregarded the indication of his mind
For some time past, before he fell ill, his careful mind abiding in Brahman made it known to him that, inasmuch as the body was not keeping well, it was not reasonable that he should remain any longer there. But should he go away out of love for his body, leaving behind the wonderful company of the Master? The body was a “cage made of bones and flesh”, full of blood and other filthy fluids and abounding in various kinds of germs and worms. Its very existence has been asserted in the Vedanta Sastra to be a delusion. And looking upon such a body as “mine”, should he go away hurriedly forsaking the company of that divine man, the source of infinite bliss? And was it not possible that the diseases of the body and other troubles might be contracted wherever he went? And what fear had he, even if diseases and other troubles came upon him? It was the body that would suffer, become emaciated or at most be destroyed. But what was that to him? He had, without the shadow of a doubt, seen and felt clearly that he was the Self unattached and immutable and he had never any relation with the body; what should he then be afraid of? These and other similar thoughts saved the revered Puri from being restless.
40. Tota went to bid good-bye to the Master but was unable to do so. His illness increased
Gradually, as the pain increased a little, the strong Swami Puri felt a desire to leave the place. He went to the Master from time to time to take leave of him, but, absorbed in talks on divine topics, he forgot completely to mention that. And when he happened to remember to take leave of the Master, some one from within, he felt, stopped his mouth for the time being; feeling hesitant to speak out, the Swami thought that he would better talk of it on the morrow and not on that day. After taking such a decision and having had a conversation on the Vedanta with the Master, the Swami Tota would return to his seat under the Panchavati. Time passed. The Swami’s body became weaker and the disease grew more acute. Seeing that the Swami’s body was thus daily becoming emaciated, the Master had in the meantime made arrangements for his special diet and a little medicine and other remedies. But, in spite of all that, the illness went on worsening. The Master began to take care of and serve him as far as it lay in his power, by asking Mathur to make a special arrangement of medicine, diet, etc. Up till now it was only in the body that the Swami felt much pain, but was having perfect peace of mind; he could forget all physical pains by merging the mind at will in Samadhi, for, up till then, he retained full control over his mind.
41. Unable to control the mind Tota went to give up his body in the Ganga; his vision of the divine Mother as the universe
It was night. The pain in the intestines had much increased. That pain did not allow the Swami even to lie quiet. He tried to lie down a little but could not and sat up immediately. But there was no relief even then. He thought, “Let me merge the mind in meditation and let anything happen to the body.” But scarcely had he brought the mind to rest by its withdrawal from the body, when it turned sharply towards the pain in the intestines. He tried again, and again the same thing happened. Hardly had the mind reached the plane of Samadhi where the body was forgotten, when it came down on account of the pain. He failed as many times as he attempted. The Swami then became terribly annoyed with his own body. He thought, “Even my mind is not under my control today on account of the trouble from this ‘cage of bones and flesh’. Away with this nuisance of a body! I have undoubtedly known that I am not the body; why do I then remain in this rotten body and suffer pain? What is the utility of preserving it any more? I will put an end to all suffering by immersing it in the Ganga at this dead of night.” Thinking so and fixing the mind with great care on the thought of Brahman, the “naked one” slowly got down into the water and gradually waded further, into deeper water. But was the deep Bhagirathi in truth dry tonight? Or was it only the external projection of his mental picture? Who could say? Tota almost reached the other bank but could not get water deep enough for drowning himself in. When, gradually, at last the trees and houses on the other bank began to be visible like shadows in the deep darkness of the night, Tota was surprised and thought, “What strange divine Maya is this? Tonight there is not sufficient water in the river even to drown oneself in! What strange unheard-of play of God?” And immediately some one, as it were from within, pulled off the veil over his intellect. Tota’s mind was dazzled by a bright light and he saw, “Mother, Mother, Mother; Mother, the origin of the universe, Mother the unthinkable Power; Mother in land and Mother in water; the body is Mother, and the mind is Mother; illness is Mother, and health is Mother; knowledge is Mother, and ignorance is Mother; life is Mother, and death is Mother; everything I see, hear, think or imagine is Mother; She makes ‘nay’ of ‘yea’ and ‘yea’ of ‘nay’! As long as one is in the body one has no power to be free from Her influence, no, not even to die, till She wills! It is that Mother again who is also beyond body, mind and intellect – the Mother, the supreme ‘fourth’, devoid of all attributes. That One whom Tota has so long been worshipping as Brahman and to whom he offered his heart-felt love and devotion was this very Mother! Siva and Sakti in One who was ever existing in the form of Hara-Gauri! – Brahman and Brahma-Sakti are one and the same!”
42. Tota gave up his determination to die
Wading his way through the water in the same manner in which he had gone, Tota began to return, with his heart full of devotion directly experiencing at that dead of night the unthinkable, unmanifest and all-pervading form of the Mother of the universe, with all the quarters of the heavens reverberating with the profound cries of “Mother” and at the same time completely offering himself as an oblation at Her feet. Though there was pain in the body, there was now no feeling of it. His heart was now beside itself with an unprecedented bliss arising from the memory of Samadhi. The Swami came slowly to the Dhuni under the Panchavati, sat up there and spent the rest of the night in meditation and repetition of the name of the divine Mother.
43. Tota had, as the result of his illness, the knowledge that Brahman and the power of Brahman were one and the same
As soon as it was morning, the Master came to enquire about his health and found him a different person altogether! His face was beaming with bliss, lips blooming with a smile, and his body, free from all illness whatever! Tota asked the Master by a sign to sit near him and described slowly all the events of the night. “It is the disease”, said he, “that has acted as a friend to me: I had the vision of the Mother of the universe last night and am freed from the disease by Her grace. Ah, how ignorant I was so long! Well, please persuade your Mother now to allow me to leave this place. I am now convinced that it was She who kept me confined here somehow or other in order to teach me this Truth. It cannot be otherwise: for, I thought long ago of going away from this place, and went to you over and over again to take leave of you. But some one, as it were, diverted my mind to other topics and prevented me every time from mentioning it to you.” The Master said smilingly, “Well, you did not accept the Mother before and argued with me saying that Sakti was unreal! But you have now seen Her yourself and direct experience has got the better of your arguments. She has convinced me already of the fact that just as fire and its burning power are not different, so, Brahman, and the power of Brahman are not different, but one and the same.”
44. Tota accepted the divine Mother and left
When they heard the morning tune of the Nahabat, both the great souls bound to each other in the relation of teacher and disciple like Siva and Rama, stood up, went to the temple of the divine Mother and prostrated themselves before Her holy image. Both of them felt in their heart of hearts that the Mother was pleased and had graciously given Tota permission to leave that place. A few days later, he took leave of the Master, left the Dakshineswar Kali temple and started westward. This was his first and last visit to that temple; for Swami Puri never again came thither.
45. Tota’s knowledge of the art of converting baser metals into gold – alchemy
One word more, and we shall have said everything we heard from the Master himself about Tota Puri. The Puri believed in alchemy. Not only did he have a belief but said to the Master that he, by virtue of that knowledge, had converted on several occasions copper and other baser metals into gold. Tota used to say that the ancient Paramahamsas of his community knew the art and he inherited the knowledge from them lineally. He said besides, “It is completely forbidden to serve one’s selfish interest or enjoy luxury with the help of this art. There is the curse of the teachers on such use. But there live in the community many holy men and the head of the community has sometimes to go with them from one place of pilgrimage to another. At that time arrangements have to be made for their food and other necessities. The teacher has, however, allowed us to make use of this knowledge for that purpose, if we are ever in need of money.’
46. The conclusion
It is thus that the Bhairavi Brahmani, and Tota Puri, the knower of Brahman, were blessed, having reached perfection in their particular paths with the help of the Master as the spiritual teacher. We can also very well infer from it that the other subsidiary spiritual teachers of the Master were similarly imbued with spiritual catholicity with his help.
1. III. 5. 1. – Tr.
1. The Bhairava is the masculine gender, while Bhairavi is the feminine; insinuation was that she might have a paramour. – Tr.
“auspicious”. – Tr.
1. Swami Vivekananda started for the second time for England and America in the month of June 1899. A short time after this, one day, a man came to the monastery at Belur, introduced himself as Chandra and stayed there for about a month. Swami Brahmananda always used to live in the monastery at that time. We have seen this person have much private talk with him. We have been told that he asked the Swami again and again, “Are you aware of anything here?” He meant, whether the Swami felt the living presence of the Master there.
Chandra used to say that whatever the Master had said about him had turned out to be true. The only thing that even then remained unverified as true was the Master’s promise to appear before him at the time of his death. He used to go to the shrine-room at the monastery every day and perform Japa and meditation with great devotion for a long time. Tears of love for God would flow out of his eyes at that time. When asked by anybody anything about the Master, he used to say with great delight what he knew of him. He appeared to us to be a man of a quiet nature. Seeing that he always sat quiet in one place and remained with his eyes shut, some one asked him derisively one day, “Are you, sir, in the habit of taking opium?” “What offence have I given you” said he humbly, “that you speak so?” When he went to the temple and made salutations, for the first time, he addressed the Master’s holy image as “elder brother” and filled with ardent affection and intense love shed profuse tears. At first sight, he appeared to be an ordinary man. There was no pomp of ochre cloth, sandal-paste marks on the forehead, etc., about him. He had a very ordinary cloth and an upper garment on with an umbrella and a canvas bag in his hands. He had another cloth, a towel and perhaps a pot used for drinking water, in the bag. He said that he travelled very often from one place of pilgrimage to another that way. Swami Brahmananda requested him very courteously and respectfully to live at the monastery for all his life. He also agreed and said, “I shall come and live here after making some arrangement of the landed property at home.” But he never turned up to the monastery again. The person spoken of as Chandra in the text was perhaps the same man.
2. The word Karana means: (1) wine, (2) cause i.e., the cause of the universe; and the word Siddhi means: (1) hemp, (2) perfection, i.e., oneness with God. Hence by the law of association of ideas, the Master used to be reminded of the second meanings when the words were uttered, and merged into Samadhi. – Tr.
1. This is a saying current among holy men who have renounced the world. The meaning of the saying is that the mind of a holy man wandering incessantly does not get attached to any thing or person.
1. Sloka 2. – Tr.
1. 1. 56.